After a devastating 2017, a new tropical weather season is getting underway.
Last year, the Atlantic Ocean Basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, saw 17 named storms, of which 10 became hurricanes. Of the 10 hurricanes, six were major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) — including the first two major hurricanes to hit the continental U.S. in 12 years.
Based on the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index, which measures the combined intensity and duration of the storms during the season and is used to classify the strength of the entire hurricane season, 2017 was the seventh most active season in the historical record dating to 1851 and was the most active season since 2005.
Last Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its official 2018 hurricane forecast. The report had some good news and some bad news.
Good news: One of the main ingredients needed for maximum tropical storm generation is an abundance of very warm ocean water, typically above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Currently, the tropical Atlantic Ocean water temperature is running a bit cooler than average, and certainly a bit cooler than at this time last year.
Not as good news: That doesn’t mean it can’t warm up quickly. And, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are still quite warm and have already allowed for the generation of Alberto, which was named a sub-tropical storm last Friday.
NOAA’s official forecast is calling for between 10 to 16 named storms — including five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes with Category 3 strength or higher.
It is important to note that the forecast is only on the potential formation of the storms, not on the eventual path or landfall of any of these storms. That is virtually impossible to forecast at such a long range.
It is also important to realize that even if the season were to be below normal, it only takes one big storm to create a natural disaster depending on the strength and location impacted.
While tropical systems rarely have a direct impact on the Miami Valley, some indirect impacts are certainly very possible. On Sept. 14, 2008, Ohio was hit with one of its costliest natural disasters as the remnants of Hurricane Ike tracked across the area. The storm system linked with an approaching cold front to spawn wind gusts of more than 80 mph, producing wind damage across 84 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Tropical Season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
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